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Helpful Toddler Tips

Helpful Tips On How To Raise A Healthy, Happy Child

As parents and children look forward to summer fun, U.S. Surgeon Dr. General Richard H. Carmona, M.P.H., has outlined a dozen tips to help keep toddlers safe and healthy. This is the second in a series of "Healthy Dozen Tips" that Dr. Carmona will release as part of "The Year of the Healthy Child" agenda.

"For toddlers, everything is new and wonderful," says Dr. Carmona. "Curiosity and discovery are natural parts of childhood, and children of all ages can benefit from a few simple reminders to parents and caregivers that can keep toddlers healthy and safe. As a child begins to walk, a whole host of new dangers are available to them. So be sure to safety-proof your home and begin to teach your toddler good health and safety habits that will last a lifetime.

"I've declared this 'The Year of the Healthy Child' for the Office of the Surgeon General. We're looking at ways to keep children healthy and safe, from pre-birth through their teen years," says Dr. Carmona. "Each phase of a child's life has its own series of potential hazards, and we're trying to shine a light on preventing those illnesses, injuries and deaths that are preventable. By appreciating what parents do every day and getting the best information out to parents and children, I hope every child will grow up healthy, happy and able to reach their potential."

Teach Healthy Eating

Provide three nutritious meals supplemented with two to three healthy snacks daily. Feed toddlers at the same time as other family members and allow them to grow into feeding themselves. Offer children nutritious foods and let them decide how much to eat. Avoid foods and drinks that are high in sugar.

Begin a Habit of Good Oral Health

Brush your child's teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush. Begin brushing for your child when his or her teeth first appear and continue until age 3 or 4 when you can start teaching your child how to brush. Introduce fluoridated toothpaste at age 2.

Don't Smoke

And don't allow anyone else to smoke around your child. Second-hand smoke can have a harmful effect on your child's breathing and can have long-term respiratory consequences like impaired lung growth, chronic coughing and wheezing. Diseases of the respiratory system (aggravated by second-hand smoke) are the leading causes of child hospitalization and one of the leading causes of toddler doctor visits. Also, smoking kills half of all lifetime smokers, costing them more than 12 years of their life.

Give Positive Feedback

Praise good behavior and accomplishments. Hug, talk, read, explore and play together. This also begins to ensure a healthy bond between parent and child. Also, when choosing a caregiver, discuss their attitudes about discipline and be sure that they agree with your point of view.

Always Use a Car Safety Seat

Be sure your child rides in an age- and weight-appropriate child safety seat, correctly installed in the back seat, on every trip. If you have any questions about how to install your child safety seat, many local fire and police departments will help you.

Safety-proof Your House

To prevent accidental poisoning, move all medications and cleaning products to high shelves. To prevent burns, set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, never leave cups of hot liquid on tables or counter edges, and never carry hot liquids or food while holding your child. To prevent choking, be sure that any toys your child plays with do not have parts that are small enough to choke on. You can test any toy part by simply dropping it through a paper towel roll. If it goes through, the piece is too small and could become a choking hazard. Do not give toddlers under age 2 foods that may cause choking, like hard candy, large pieces of raw vegetable or fruit, or tough meat. To prevent drowning, install a toilet lid lock on every toilet in the home. Drowning can happen in less than a couple of inches of water.

Never Leave Your Toddler Unattended

As a child grows, so does his or her natural curiosity to explore. It just takes a few seconds for an inquisitive toddler to get into a dangerous situation.

Make Sure Your Child Has a Primary Health Provider

Prevention is the key to a healthy childhood. So make sure that your child has a primary health provider, such as a pediatrician or family practitioner, who knows your child before your child has an illness, injury or developmental delay that requires medical attention.

Fully Immunize Your Child

Make sure your child gets all immunizations on time. Immunizations have prevented death and disease for millions of children throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Talk with your child's primary health provider about keeping up to date on all vaccinations.

Learn Child First Aid and CPR

Be prepared. Know how to call for help, including poison control. The national toll-free line for poison control is 1-800-222-1222. Also, learn child first aid and CPR. We hope you will never have to use these skills. But if you do, the life you save could be your child's.

Practice Prevention and Safety

Teach your child safety tips, including always swimming with a buddy and wearing a bicycle helmet. Teach your child about sun safety, including wearing a hat outdoors and frequently applying SPF 30 sunscreen. Also, a growing child will come into potentially dangerous situations or may become separated from a parent or caregiver. Be sure your older toddler knows his or her name, parents' names and phone number. Help him or her to recognize police and fire officials as trusted individuals, while raising caution to other strangers. Get your child's fingerprints taken and keep a recent photograph in your wallet.

Have Fun

Hug, talk, read, explore and play together. Parenting is the most difficult job in the world. As much as you love your child, it can be stressful to be a parent. Be patient, manage your stress and ask for help. All parents sometimes feel overwhelmed and frustrated as they tackle the challenges involved with parenting. If you feel so stressed that you feel unable to cope with the demands of parenting, get help.

For more information on "The Year of the Healthy Child," visit www.surgeongeneral.gov.
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